The most popular handbook about the Deaf community

Q: “Is it O.K. to use the terms
‘deaf-mute’ and ‘deaf-and-dumb’?”

A: No. Although the term “deaf-mute” still persists in the U.S. and English press (which still uses “deaf and dumb”), neither of these terms should be used. “Deaf-and-dumb” and “deaf-mute” were at one time non-pejorative terms for deaf people. They reflected a common misconception that deafness caused muteness. People believed that deaf people couldn’t speak, that they were incapable of speech. Even deaf people used these terms to describe themselves. With the evolution of the Deaf community and changing perceptions, these terms are now considered obsolete and offensive. They have acquired a derogatory connotation. “Mute” is now used to describe a person who cannot talk; “dumb” is now used to mean clumsy, stupid, or ignorant. Even the term “hearing-impaired” is now perceived as an insult (or simply bad usage), since it’s a vague euphemism. So please do not use “hearing-impaired.” Use the simple, non-judgmental term “Deaf,” or “Deaf and hard-of-hearing.”

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